Airline limitations have angered many, requiring passengers to fit all of their essentials into smaller spaces and keep their bags lighter. While a fifty-pound bag seems to be a squeeze for some, it would be enough to store all of minimalist Andrew Hyde’s earthly possessions more than five times over. This is because Hyde, like many minimalists, is finding that possessing only the necessary items actually makes you much more ready for anything.
For two years, Hyde only owned 15 items, allowing him to carry his nine pounds of possessions with him everywhere. After assisting in the startup of several successful tech companies, Hyde spent two years exploring the world, from Thailand to Colombia and everywhere in between, all while traveling light to the extreme.
Even when he boosted his total to a whopping 31 items, Hyde could carry all he owned without inhibiting his ability to move about freely.
“The bag is light enough (about 14 pounds with the iPad included) so I can run (really) around any city with no problem. This has saved many trips going to and from the hostel before I take off on a trip or meal,” Hyde said.
Hyde’s mission to travel lightly is not purely about practicality, but also about the state of mind it allows. “It is very simple living this way. I do laundry a lot, but besides that, that simplicity allows me to think about other things,” Hyde said in an interview with ABCRadio. “Other than the issue of really wanting a new shirt color sometimes, I really am not missing much, but experiencing a lot.”
Colin Wright is also experiencing a lot. Wright, author of Exile Lifestyle, relocates to a new country every four months, based entirely on his readers’ votes. He began his mobile lifestyle by painstakingly ridding himself of all but 72 items. After two months in Argentina he realized even this was over-packing, so he is now down to just 51 items.
“What I would recommend is slowly testing the waters and seeing what you can live without,” Wright wrote. “The real purpose is to reduce the worthless while increasing the amount of value I’m able to put out and happiness I’m able to attain.”
Wright emphasizes that focusing on the limitation of items, as some do, isn’t the point.
“Take the practices that work for you and help you live a happier life, but leave the others for those who find value in them,” Wright wrote.
The Everyday Minimalist, a 20-something consultant, doesn’t believe counting items is most important either. She lived out of a single suitcase in 2007, but since has expanded her and her husband’s possessions to fill six suitcases and four carry-ons. Their light loads allow them to pack all of their possessions in a couple of hours and fit them all into one car.
When it comes to traveling, TEM has no problem packing light. She sticks to just one carry-on and a purse, no matter how long the journey. In her post Minimalism lends well to (modern) nomadism, she advises, “If you have too many basics, you won’t be able to fit into a carry-on, which means you won’t be too keen on shifting from one city to another.”
Situations like that forced TEM into her lifestyle to begin with. “(The stress from my stuff) was weighing me down mentally, and rooting me to a physical spot with the sheer amount of items I owned…I wasn’t as mobile as I had previously imagined, and I wanted to be free of all of my unnecessary possessions rather than imprisoned by them.”
Now she has sample packing lists on her website to show others how they too can travel lightly. All of her tips are manageable, even for those non-minimalists, but they still support her motto: “The less you want or need, the more you will feel free.”
That freedom is what all minimalists, travelers or not, seem to agree on. The real change is not living with less stuff, but the clarity that comes from minimizing possessions.
“What Minimalism is really all about is reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff — the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities — that don’t bring value to your life,” Wright wrote.
So maybe you don’t think you could ever live with 15 items, even for a short time. But the next time you’re trying to navigate through the airport or a busy street with sore shoulders from your overloaded bags, or trying to manage your belongings in multiple stuffed suitcases teetering on tiny wheels behind you, think again. You might change your mind.